BUSINESS: The Independent Eye: Biz Tactics What Are 5 Key 2024 Trends That Will Impact Your Small Business? By Staff Wednesday, December 6, 2023 8:15 AM WASHINGTON D.C.—The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has identified several Small Business Trends which will shape the coming year. “2024 stands to be an exciting year for the small business community, and the SBA wants to help make sure you’re ready for whatever is in store,” the organization recently posted. “Consult our resource partner network for no- or low-cost counseling and training and visit the SBA Learning Platform in order to access a wealth of educational materials." For small business owners, the time to start planning for 2024 is now. While no one can predict exactly what the future will hold, there are plenty of trends entrepreneurs can monitor right now to stay prepared for challenges and opportunities in the days ahead. With potential impacts for both day-to-day operations and the long-term picture, the following trends should inform your small business strategy in the new year. According to the SBA here are 5 trends to keep top of mind: Artificial intelligence is here to stay. There’s no denying that artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot button issue with implications that go well beyond the tech space. AI is at the forefront of many sectors, including business. In fact, according to the Constant Contact Small Business Now Report, 91 percent of small businesses who are currently using AI say it has made their business more successful. With benefits for marketing, operations, and more, it may be worth looking into how AI can improve your business. But don’t forget about the human touch. In a day and age that is becoming increasingly digital, soft skills are more valuable than ever before. Artificial intelligence may be the future, but emotional intelligence is still very much the now. A recent study by Redpoint Global found that 77 percent of consumers believe positive customer experience still requires human interaction—all the more reason to make sure you and your employees continue to hone your interpersonal skills. The SBA Learning Center can help with such courses as “Understanding Your Customer.” Customer experience is everything. Price and product quality are important, but the concept of the “customer experience economy” reigns supreme. What does that mean for your business? Creating a positive customer experience at every level, from research to point of sale. Meet the customer where they are, whether that’s online or in-person, and personalize their journey as much as possible. Sustainability is important to customers. Few things are as critical to today’s customer as sustainability. According to a recent study by NielsenIQ, 78 percent of U.S. consumers say that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them, and they want to patronize businesses that share those values. Luckily, the SBA has some ideas of how you can lower your carbon footprint. Cybersecurity is a must in a data-driven economy. As data collection and analysis become standard processes, consumers want to know that their information is secure and responsibly managed. Sixty seven percent of smartphone users are concerned about data security and privacy on their phones. Fortunately, there are a variety of steps you can take to protect your customers as well as yourself, from cyber threats, stated the SBA in this link.